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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Asimov Isaac
 

«Potential», Isaac Asimov

Nadine Triomph checked the long list of symbols for-what was it?-the tenth time. She did not think she could get anything out of it that Multivac had not, but it was only human to try.

She passed it over to Basil Seversky. “It's completely different, Basil,” she said.

“You can see that at a glance,” said Basil, gloomily.

“Well, don't drag. That's good. So far the only gene combinations that Multivac has dredged up seem to have been minor variations on a theme. Now this one is different.”

Basil put his hands into the pockets of his lab jacket and leaned his chair back against the wall. He felt the line of his hips absently and noted it was gaining a certain softness. He was getting pudgy all over, he thought, and didn't like it.

He said, “Multivac doesn't tell us anything we don't tell it first. We don't really know that the basic requirements for telepathy are valid, do we?”

Nadine felt defensive. It was Basil who had worked out the neurological requirements, but it was she who had prepared the program by which Multivac scanned the potential gene structures to see which might produce those requirements.

She said, “If we have two rather different sets of genetic patterns, as we now have, we can work out-or try to work out-the common factors, and this could give us a lead as to the validity.”

“In theory-but we'll be working in theory forever. If Multivac works at its present speed for the remaining lifetime of the sun as a main-sequence star, it will not have gone through a duodecillionth of all the possible structural variations of the genes that might exist, let alone the possible modifications introduced by their order on the chromosomes.”

“We might get lucky.” They had held the same conversation-upbeat versus downbeat-a dozen times, with minor variations in detail.

“Lucky? The word hasn't been invented to describe the kind of impossible luck we would need. And if we do pick out a million different genetic patterns with potential for telepathy, we then have to ask what the odds are that someone now alive will have such a gene pattern, or anything near it.”

“We can modify,” said Nadine.

“Oh? Have you come across an existing human genetic pattern which can be modified by known procedures into something Multivac says will produce telepathy?”

“The procedures will improve in the future and if we keep Multivac working and keep on registering all human genetic patterns at birth-”

“-And,” Basil continued sing-song, “if the Planetary Genetic Council continues to support the program adequately, and if we continue to get the time-sharing we need on Multivac, and if-”

It was at that point that Multivac interrupted with one more item and all a dazed Basil could say afterward was, “I don't believe it.”

 

*  *  *

 

It seemed that Multivac's routine scanning of registered genetic patterns of living human beings had turned up one that matched the new pattern it had worked out as possessing telepathic potential-and the match was virtually exact.

Basil said, “I don't believe it.”

Nadine, who had always been forced into unreasoning faith by Basil's consistent pessimism, said, sunnily. “Here he is, just the same. Male. Aged 15. Name Roland Washman. Only child. Plainview, Iowa. American Region, actually.”

Basil studied Roland's genetic pattern, as delivered by Multivac, and compared it with the pattern worked out by Multivac from theoretical considerations. He muttered, again, “I don't believe it.”

“It's there before you.”

“Do you know the odds against this?”

“It's there before you. The Universe is billions of years old and there's been time for a great many unbelievable coincidences to happen.”

“Not this unbelievable.” Basil pulled himself together. “Iowa was included in one of the areas we scanned for telepathic presence and nothing ever showed up. Of course, the pattern only shows the potential for telepathy-”

 

*  *  *

 

It was Basil's plan to approach indirectly. However much the Planetary Genetic Council might post the possibility of telepathy as one of the goal-patterns to be searched for, along with musical genius, variable-gravitational endurance, cancer resistance, mathematical intuition, and several hundred other items, it remained that telepathy had an ingrained unpopularity.


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